What are the parts of a standard metal
hand plane?

 
     
     
 Shop for Woodworking Hand Planes 
     
     
 Diagram of a basic metal hand plane 
     
 The Stanley Bailey bench plane design 

Most metal hand planes follow a design, or pattern, developed by American Leonard Bailey and further refined by Stanley Works, again in the U.S.

 

See A brief history of woodworking and hand planes for more information about the influence of Bailey and Stanley. 

 
     
   

Lever cap 

 
 Lever cap, lever cap screw and cam 

The design includes a metal clamp – the lever cap – that holds the iron or blade assembly in place. The lever cap is secured with a screw and a cam.

 

The cam is a projection beneath a lever that, when moved to its locked position, presses the lever cap against the screw and holds the iron and a chip breaker in place underneath.

 
     
   

Chip breaker

 
 Lever cap fits over chip breaker and iron 

The chip breaker, fitted on top of the iron and beneath the lever cap, breaks the shaving, or chip, that results from planing action on the wood.

 
     
 Distinctive curly plane shavings 

It's this breaking of the chip that give it its distinctive, curly shape.

 
     
   

Iron 

 
 Slot in blade of metal hand plane 

The irons of many metal planes have a large keyhole slot cut out of them to allow securing screws and the end of a blade depth adjustment lever to pass through it. The iron is usually bedded - secured in the plane - at an angle of 45 degrees to the sole, with the bevel of the cutting edge facing down towards the workpiece.

 
     
   

Iron adjustment

 
 Blade depth adjustment wheel and lateral adjustment lever 

There is a wheel and a lever for, respectively, adjusting the depth of the blade and the angle of the cutting edge in relation to the sole, known as the lateral angle.

 

The cutting edge should be perfectly parallel to the sole – if it's skewed, moving the lateral adjustment lever to the left or the right will correct it.

 
     
   

Tote

 
 Tote or rear handle of bench plane 

The main (rear) handle, often referred to as the tote, is shaped to fit the user's dominant hand comfortably.

 
     
   

Knob

 
 Knob of a bench plane 

The knob, or front handle, is gripped by the woodworker's non-dominant hand during planing.

 
     
   

Frog

 
 Frog removed from hand plane, showing where it fits 

The iron, chipbreaker, lever cap and iron adjustment mechanisms are mounted on an iron wedge known as the ’frog’.

 

 
     
 Bench plane frog; woodworking hand planes 

The frog is adjustable backwards and forwards to change the the gap between the blade and the front of the mouth – the opening in the sole of the plane through which the blade projects. A wide gap is needed for deep cutting, and a narrow one for fine cutting. See How does a plane work? for more details.

 
     
 Where the frog of a woodworking plane gets its name 

There are different theories about how it came to be known as the frog. One is that it actually resembles a frog, which is roughly wedge-shaped when sitting; another is that it is positioned just behind the 'throat' – the area through which the shavings curl upwards – alluding to having "a frog in one's throat".

 
   Wonkee Donkee on fitting a real frog into a hand plane 
   

Sole

 
 Sole of a woodworking plane 

The sole is the base of the plane, which slides along the workpiece during planing. It needs to be perfectly flat to give "true" results – edges that are perfectly flat and square, or perpendicular, with adjoining edges and faces.

 
     
 Grooves in the sole of a corrugated fore plane; woodworking hand planes 

The soles of some planes are corrugated – they have a series of grooves along their full length – to reduce friction between the sole and wood being planed. This is particularly useful on "sticky" woods, such as pitch pine, which contains lots of resin.

 
     
   

Low-angle, bevel-up planes

 
 Low-angle jack plane 

Apart from the standard Stanley / Bailey design, there are also low-angle planes which have their irons bedded at a lower angle – as little as 12 degrees – with the bevel of the iron's cutting edge facing up, away from the workpiece, rather than down. See What is a low-angle bench plane? and What are Bevel up or bevel down planes? for details of the advantages and disadvantages of these planes.

 

Confusingly perhaps, this design was also originated by Stanley!

 
     
   

Simpler designs

 
 Low angle scrub plane has relatively simple design 

However, some metal planes follow a simpler design, like the scrub plane which is used for the fast removal of excess wood. The iron is held by a lever cap with a threaded knob, levered against a clamp bar, and there is no chip breaker. 

 

Blade depth adjustment is manual after slackening the lever cap knob, and lateral blade adjustment is via 'set screws' either side of the plane’s body.

 
     
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